USC and Stanford Meet for NCAA Title

USC's Uytengsu Aquatic Center (Photo by John McGillen)
USC's Uytengsu Aquatic Center (Photo by John McGillen)
May 12, 2018

NCAA Championship Central

NCAA Championship Bracket

NCAA Tournament

Host: USC (Uytengsu Aquatics Center)

Los Angeles, Calif.

NCAA Semifinal # 1

No. 1 seed USC 10, No. 4 seed UCLA 6

Recap by USC

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- The tournament's top seed and host of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, the USC women's water polo team made a power move into the title match with a decisive 10-6 win over crosstown rival UCLA in today's semifinal at the Trojans' Uytengsu Aquatics Center. USC turned an early lockup into a six-goal advantage just past halftime as the Trojans controlled this one to take a place in tomorrow's 3 p.m. final against No. 2 seed Stanford. Now 25-1 overall, host USC will carry a 15-game win streak into the championship bout, where the Trojans are looking to claim a sixth national crown. USC last won it all in 2016 with a victory over Stanford in that championship game. The Cardinal beat USC in last year's semifinal en route to the 2017 title.

USC's balanced roster was on display today, as senior Brianna Daboub and freshman Paige Hauschild each issued a hat trick to pace USC's offense. Hauschild's second goal of the game not only crafted a 7-2 advantage for her Trojans by halftime, it lifted her to a new record season scoring total as she now boasts the most goals ever scored by a USC true freshman. Hauschild's third goal bumped up her season count to 67 goals. On the defensive end, USC's junior goalie Amanda Longan gathered in 10 saves -- her 32nd career game with double-digit saves -- in just under four periods of work.

USC established its control of the game in the first period of play. Daboub kicked things off with a savvy lob to get USC the early lead, only to have UCLA earn back-to-back exclusions and convert on the advantage to lock it up 1-1 a minute later. From there, however, the Trojans rattled in three straight scores. Freshman Verica Bakoc fed sophomore Kelsey McIntosh for the go-ahead goal on a USC 6-on-5, and then Hauschild padded it out with a nearside ripper. Hayley McKelvey and Hauschild would combine forces for a takeaway on the defensive end, and McKelvey hit Denise Mammolito for the sophomore's first goal of the day to tug USC ahead 4-1. UCLA answered back, but USC had a smooth 6-on-5 finish at the ready as Maud Megens sent the ball to McKelvey, who lofted it to Daboub for another resounding strike from the senior to make it 5-2 USC by the end of the first.

The Trojan defense rendered the Bruins scoreless in the second frame while Mammolito and Hauschild each rocketed in their second goals of the game to punch up a 7-2 halftime advantage for the hosts. In the third, McKelvey earned a power play for her Trojans, who manufactured another slick 6-on-5 series with McIntosh connecting with Megens for the setup to Daboub for the senior's third goal. UCLA got two more power plays to go from there, carving down the USC lead to 8-4 entering the fourth, but more hard work from Daboub got USC an early power play that saw McIntosh find Hauschild for another big blast to get USC up 9-4. UCLA scored twice -- on a 6-on-5 and then on a nice series that cut it to 9-6 with 19 ticks to go, but USC had one more in the chamber as freshman Nadia Pavlovich had the last word for USC to wrap a 10-6 Trojan victory over their crosstown rival that punched the ticket to tomorrow's title match.

For complete results and schedule information, as well as links to stats and streams, go to the NCAA Tournament Central Page at http://usctrojans.com/sports/2018/3/30/2018-ncaa-womens-water-polo-championship-central.aspx

No. 2 seed Stanford 11, No. 3 seed California 7

Recap by Stanford

LOS ANGELES - Three Cardinal accounted for the scoring offense, Julia Hermann made 15 saves and No. 2 Stanford advanced to its ninth consecutive NCAA final with an 11-7 victory over No. 3 California on Saturday night.

Stanford (20-3), which has appeared in every championship match since 2010, will play No. 1 USC (25-1) for the national title on Sunday at 3 p.m. PT. The Trojans beat UCLA 10-6 in the tournament's earlier semifinal. The Cardinal has won six NCAA Championships (2002, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017) and five of the last seven.

Jordan Raney, Makenzie Fischer and Kat Klass handled the scoring for Stanford. Raney tied her career high with four goals, Fischer scored four for the eighth time in her last 11 games and Klass collected her fourth hat trick of the year. With the win, the Cardinal secured its 14th consecutive 20-win season.

Like yesterday, the Cardinal came out clicking. Two minutes into the contest a Shannon Cleary field block on the defensive end sprung Fischer for Stanford's first score. Fischer would draw an exclusion one minute later and Raney converted the Cardinal's first 6-on-5 of the evening.

The Golden Bears scored their first goal midway through the opening quarter when three Stanford players were excluded in succession. One came back on right as Emma Wright converted what ended up being a 6-on-4 chance for Cal.

Stanford didn't let that slow it down, ripping off four goals in a row to take a commanding 6-1 lead. The ball ended up with Klass after a scramble in front of the cage and the Cardinal junior buried it with 3:36 on the clock in the first.

At 2:14, Stanford's defense shut down Cal's power play and sparked a transition opportunity until Madison Berggren was dragged down from behind. Fischer converted the five-meter penalty to make it 4-1.

The Golden Bears had a couple of chances to end the period, but Hermann was up to the task, stopping Carla Carrega from distance and Dora Antal 1v1.

The redshirt senior goalkeeper stopped Carrega again early in the second before Kitty Lynn Joustra was kicked out for Cal. Stanford called timeout to set up its offense and some pinpoint passing from between Fischer, Berggren and Raney ended up with Raney's second of the day.

Klass scored on the power play with 90 seconds left in the half and the Cardinal led 6-2 at the break after Cal ended its nearly 11-minute scoreless drought with a goal from Joustra late in the quarter.

Anna Illes pulled the Bears within three following a couple of empty trips near the halfway point of the third quarter, but Fischer scored with a near-post skip on the power play in response. Stanford, which started a perfect 4-of-4 in man-up situations on Saturday, ended the game with goals on seven of its 11 6-on-5 opportunities.

Antal scored for Cal on a quick shot after a common foul at 3:31 in the third, but again Stanford answered and set up a successful play coming out of a timeout after Aria Fischer drew an exclusion on Brigit Mulder. Stanford cycled it around until it found Raney up top and the senior rattled the cage for the third time with 1:52 to go in the period and push the Cardinal advantage to 8-4.

Cal mounted a charge in the fourth and pulled to within two, 9-7, on a Carrega goal with 5:31 remaining. That was as close as the Golden Bears would get. Hermann shut down Carrega at 3:52 and at 2:22 Klass fired off a confident shot when the Cardinal needed it, scoring on a near-post skip to push the lead back to three, 10-7.

Hermann's 14th save with 1:44 to go and Cal on the power play essentially ended it. Fischer got her fourth goal when she lofted it into an empty cage from near half tank near the finish.

Hermann's 15 saves were her highest total of the season and two off a career high. Her 459 career saves are fifth all-time at Stanford. Fischer, who has scored 44 times in the Cardinal's last 11 games, has 67 total goals this year, the fifth-most in program history.

Stanford extended its own NCAA record by booking its ninth straight trip to the women's water polo championship and will be looking to win the department's fourth NCAA title of the year (women's soccer, men's soccer, women's swimming and diving).

Stanford has won 116 NCAA team championships, a total which is tied with UCLA for the most all-time. The Cardinal has won at least one NCAA team title for 42 consecutive academic years, an ongoing record.